Why I’m Writing Richlifeology

Marbles

A year or so into working at Northrop Grumman, I attended a leadership seminar in which four lifetime employees (20-40+ years of service) sat at the front of the room and talked about their experiences there.

The oldest was an engineer. A guy with hundreds of patents to his name. A true legend that would impress anyone and I immediately felt thankful for his contributions to the company, to radar technology, and to our nation.

Seeing him up there warmed my heart because he was exactly where he was supposed to be in order to make the biggest impact on the world.

Immediately next to him was a manager, John, with twenty years of experience. He was a smart guy who spoke plainly, which was new for us given the corporate-speak we’d been used, and he told an allegory that has stuck with me ever since.

Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/92435716@N00/54171376/">Andrew Morrell Photography</a>

Searching for glass balls on the internet is very very risky. Marbles are better.

In front of you sit five balls labelled work, family, health, friends, and spirit.

The work ball is made of rubber but the family, health, friends, and spirit balls are made of glass. Your purpose is to juggle all of these balls in the air. If you drop the work ball, it just bounces right back up without a scratch. If you drop the others, they’ll get scuffed, cracked, or shattered beyond repair.

I would later learn that this allegory is attributed to Bryan Dyson, former CEO of Coca-Cola.

The most poignant part of the roundtable discussion was when John was asked if he’d do anything differently. To a group of young ambitious engineers hungry for career advice, John said that he’d work less. He’d spend more time with his family. He’s focus more on his health.

It had the biggest impact on me, I just didn’t know it yet.

I was fortunate in that I didn’t drop too many balls (or that when I did, they didn’t break) but I did let work dominate.

I identified with being an entrepreneur first, rather than a father or a husband or a golfer or a runner or whatever else. I love my family, I enjoy golf, I run, and I certainly put in the time and am present – but I saw work as the purpose.

For me, a Rich Life meant financial success in business.

I let it be my purpose and when it was removed, I felt an emptiness. I wouldn’t classify it as depression but I know now what people mean when they say depression isn’t sadness, it’s emptiness.

A Rich Life is more than work. It’s more than promotions and it’s more than raises. It’s about getting the most out of life so that when you look back, you aren’t looking at broken glass balls or an emptiness after decades of work.

It’s about building your life so that it’s well-rounded and balanced. It’s about being able to focus on family, friends, health, and spirit – in addition to work.

I don’t know what the answer is. This is a tough journey for me too.

After I sold a business, I immediately went to create others to fill the time and emptiness. It worked, for a short while, but unless I figure out how to build a Rich Life I’ll be back in the same place again. I need to figure out how to strengthen those glass balls, to stretch that allegory even further.

It’ll be exciting, sometimes scary, and I’m not sure where we’re going but we’ll have fun. I hope you’ll join me.

– Jim

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Jim Wang

I'm a recovering workaholic who is seeking to live a more balanced Rich Life that focuses on family, friends, health and spirit as much as work.

13 Comments

  1. Looking forward to following along on this chapter in your journey. Was great meeting you in San Diego and look forward to seeing you at FinCon sometime.

  2. Love this Jim! Super excited to read more about it! Would love to interview you for our podcast which talks about the simpler happier life. I think it would be a good fit.

  3. This is a great blog topic, Jim, although I thought you were already running enough blogs!

    If “rich life” and “balance” does not involve a longboard, then people might be doing it wrong…

    • The only ones I run are Scotch Addict (1 post a week) and Microblogger (1 podcast a week and the occasional blog post), so it’s really not that much. 🙂

  4. I’ll tell you what, man. I’ve been working less (babies) and getting paid less too (babies) and I honestly haven’t felt better. Even spending time just going on walks and not filling up every last 15 min increment with work is starting to help me appreciate life more. We’ll see how long it can go but for now I’m riding high and realizing it’s actually OK to not work 60-70 hours a week. It’s weird, but it’s OK 🙂

  5. I’m living the dream. Finally. Money isn’t everything, but waking up every morning knowing you have a tough day ahead yet feeling like a kid on Christmas morning is priceless. So glad the corporate world is behind me.

    • Finding fulfillment is exceptionally hard and for you to discover it in the craft of barbecue is wonderful. Certainly better than a corporate gig!

  6. I’m right in the middle somewhere. I am a successful solopreneur, but I’ve been tiring of some aspects of it. I’m working on cutting out the things I don’t enjoy so I can spend more time on the things I do enjoy. The balance comes from trying to make a living doing the things I enjoy! I guess that’s also part of the fun with the journey. Good luck with your journey too. 🙂

  7. Hi Jim! Looking forward to reading more. There has to be a balance in life… you nailed it! I recently wrote a book that will help people reach financial freedom so that they can find their own balance. If you’re interested in reading it (and possibly posting a review), I’ll gladly send you a free copy. I can also send you an extra copy to giveaway to your readers. The book is called Outsmarting the System. You can read about it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Outsmarting-System-Control-Financial-Freedom/dp/0991302974/. Let me know if you’re interested. Keep up the good work with your blog and most importantly, keep enjoying life!

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